Ultimate Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

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Gorilla Trekking in the Treopical Rain Forests. Sounds Scary, right? That’s what I thought too. Turns out the mountain gorillas aren’t the terrifying monsters we think they are.

But we’ve all seen the movie ‘King Kong’ and we think that Hollywood doesn’t lie. It’s why thousands of people around the world suffer from pithecophobia. Fear of mention the word “gorilla”.

But who can blame them? No One!

Gorillas are the largest of all apes! A male gorilla grows to be three times as the size of man! Gorilla Trekking in Uganda will change your thinking about the life of gorillas! As for those who have purposefully seeked out the company of the gorillas in the impenetrable rain forests of Uganda they clearly understand that gorilla trekking tours are among the most thrilling wildlife encounters.

Seeking The Company Of Gorillas

There are two experiences that are offered in Uganda. As an adrenaline junkie, my tolerance level these days is high. Luckily Uganda delivered the goods.

They let you get face-to-face with the gentle giants in Bwindi Forest.

Visit the mountain gorillas in two national parks

Preparing for a Gorilla Safari in Uganda

In Uganda, seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is a physically demanding activity than a game drive safari or nature walks. Gorilla trekking safaris take place in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park both located in southwestern Uganda. It takes a whole day by road to reach these parks from Kampala, though you can take a fly in scheduled charter flight to get there faster.

It’s very important to consider your health and physical fitness before you book a gorilla permit. Bwindi has the largest number of mountain gorillas with 12 habituated gorilla families located in four different sections including Buhoma (park headquarters), Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga with 5 habituated gorilla families while Mgahinga Gorilla Park has only one habituated group called Nyakagezi, the others are wild and make part of the greater Virunga Conservation Area including those in volcanoes national park northern Rwanda and eastern DR Congo in Virunga national park.

Visitors must at least plan to spend 3 days while on a gorilla safari to Uganda.

What is the Best time to plan a gorilla safari

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park experience equatorial tropical climate, staying ever green and wet all year round. Gorilla trekking is easier during the dry seasons in December to February and June to September. Being peak and busy seasons, visitors are very many; expect to pay high prices for some of the logistics.

Generally, trekking trails through the dense forests are a bit dry and easier to hike but you must be fit to endure long treks because gorillas also move longer distances searching for fresh food. Not only rain is unpredictable for you to have to have rain gears but also nights get too cold.

Meanwhile, the low seasons in April, May and October to November, tourists are very few due heavy rains, the forests get wetter even when it does not rain every day. Gorilla permit price is usually on discount from $600 to $450 per foreign visitor which makes a Uganda gorilla safari relatively cheaper.

It can be difficult to hike in wet weather but gorillas also come closer to the park boundaries or at lower slopes in the case of high altitude Mgahinga volcanoes. Expect shorter treks but very strenuous such as crossing muddy streams or maneuvering through dripping canopies with stinging nettles and thorny bushes.

Note, however, these gorilla parks have a lot of attractions including rare golden monkeys and best volcano hiking in Mgahinga, birds such as Albertine rift endemics, and 10 primate species in Bwindi forest. For visitors to with time could spend more days on a safari for more adventures.

Gorilla permit booking

A gorilla permit is required be able to see gorillas. You must book and pay for it in advance of 3-4 months because of high competition. However, before you do so, you must first understand the gorilla trekking rules and regulations which have for years and the permit fees fund gorilla conservation.

Most visitors book gorilla permits with a registered tour operator who will check for permit availability from the official Uganda Wildlife Authority with regard to your date of interest you wish to see gorillas. The operator will not charge additional money than for the permit if you book with them a gorilla safari or use their services. Send money to him including bank charges, he will pay and register your details including scanned passport copies, names and nationality.

A gorilla permit can also be booked directly by email through Uganda Wildlife Authority, the official conservation body responsible for issuing out all Uganda gorilla permits. Once you have secured a permit, it’s guaranteed to see gorillas.

Things to pack for a gorilla safari

Bwindi has thick undergrowth and dense canopies, though not at a high altitude but ridges are steep and challenging while Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has high altitude volcanoes, gorillas can even feed on top at 4,500 meters above sea level. You must be well equipped for these trekking conditions. We advise aging visitors or those who feel should hike at their pace to hire a porter at the start of the trek. Pay a small fee help a porters as they also carry your bags or push you through steep climbs.

Visitors are advised to have sturdy hiking boots, guitars, long pants which you’ll tuck into the boots, long sleeved shirts, gloves, insect repellants, rain jackets and a hat. Rain jackets are important to cover your cameras and a day’s pack is essential to keep your drinking water and packed food or snacks. However, as a rule you must respect the environment, ensure you leave no litter in the forest, and keep everything you’ve used such as lunch boxes, paper bags, and empty bottles.

Respect the gorilla trekking rules and regulations

Before you book a gorilla safari, you must be in position to meet the gorilla trekking rules and regulations set by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

As a first rule, any sick tourist cannot be allowed to see gorillas. Gorillas are prune to human borne diseases and can die from flu, cough or diarrhea. However, when you’re with gorillas and feel like sneezing, please turn your head back and do so. If you want to ease yourself, ask the guides, never walk alone human waster must be buried 30 centimeters underneath.

Mountain gorillas never kill for fodder because they are peaceful animals and have been accustomed to human presence. Uganda wildlife authority guides lead you to a particular gorilla family. You’ll be told to switch off camera flash lights, photography, observe gorillas for one hour at a distance of 7 meters, and keep in a tight group. Gorillas often approach closer or even touching, do not run away or look directly into their eyes, just stand still, sit down or make a slow step backwards.

Situations change, so stay closer to the guides, rangers and trackers. Sometimes gorillas can charge especially the silverbacks will beat their chests, or make noise as a way of protecting their families or scaring you to give them peace.

However, all in all it’s a once in a life time experience to spend time with gorillas which are highly threatened by habitat loss, poaching and human diseases. Hence, they are highly protected by armed rangers and monitored daily by gorilla doctors. These people do a lot of work and it good for any tourist to appreciate and give tip a guide, ranger, porter or gorilla doctor.

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